So Help Me…Who?

Question from Ashley:
Do you have to swear on the Bible in court? And if you don’t how else would you swear you’re telling the truth?

Answer by SmartLX:
In the United States, and here in Australia, non-believers can affirm a secular oath instead of swearing on a Bible. The US District Court version of the oath is,
“You do affirm that all the testimony you are about to give in the case now before the court will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; this you do affirm under the pains and penalties of perjury?”
The reply is, of course,
“I do.”

The idea of a believer swearing to God to tell the truth in a particular instance seems pointless to me. God’s supposed to know when you’re lying at any time and can supposedly punish you for it after death, whether or not you’ve previously said in public that you won’t lie. A secular oath has exactly the same practical purpose as religious oaths (e.g. “so help me God”): to make a witness immediately punishable on Earth for perjury, thus providing a very good reason for the witness to tell the truth.

One thought on “So Help Me…Who?”

  1. The secular oath sounds so much more realistic … especially the part that goes “this you do affirm under the pains and penalties of perjury”.
    Would certainly keep me straight if I was in the dock testifying. The threat is so real and certain.

    The “So help me God” version is so mild in comparison … I mean even for a religious person. One can lie while testifying and then claim simply that God did not help them tell the truth!
    After all, god moves in mysterious ways. Maybe they should add give some teeth to the religious oath by referring to “eternal damnation and serious burning in hell-fire”. That shouldn’t be too overblown, given that religious texts seem to promise much worse than that for much lesser evils than lying.

    Just another area where atheists seem to have it tough !

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